2020 Virginia Doctors Buying Guide to Medical Malpractice Insurance

Virginia Medical Professional Liability Insurance Market Summary

Medical providers in Virginia have great options for medical malpractice insurance. Top Virginia insurers include:

  • The Doctors Company
  • MagMutual
  • Medical Protective
  • ProAssurance
  • Coverys

These companies stand out in Virginia for their A-rating from A.M. Best, their robust financial strength, and their ability to successfully defend Virginian physicians. These carriers use proprietary methodologies to set rates and there is no set standard rate across insurers for each specialty.

Early tort reform in the state, damage caps, and competitive medical malpractice insurance rates make Virginia a very welcoming place to practice medicine.

In Virginia in 2020, doctors carry $2,450,000/$7,350,000 limits of liability for malpractice insurance.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirements for Virginia in 2020

Virginia state law does not require practicing physicians to be covered by medical malpractice insurance. However, many Virginia-based hospitals, outpatient surgical facilities, and health care centers require providers, as a condition of credentialing, to carry malpractice insurance with liability limits that match or exceed the cap on damages. Virginia’s cap on medical malpractice damages increases every year; for 2020, the liability cap per injury is set at $2,450,000 and will reach $2,950,000 by 2030.

Per the Virginia General Assembly, the Cap Limits will increase per the schedule below:

  • July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022: $2.50 million
  • July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023: $2.55 million
  • July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024: $2.60 million
  • July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025: $2.65 million
  • July 1, 2025, through June 30, 2026: $2.70 million
  • July 1, 2026, through June 30, 2027: $2.75 million
  • July 1, 2027, through June 30, 2028: $2.80 million
  • July 1, 2028, through June 30, 2029: $2.85 million
  • July 1, 2029, through June 30, 2030: $2.90 million
  • July 1, 2030, through June 30, 2031: $2.95 million
  • July 1, 2031, and after: $3 million

Medical Malpractice Insurance and COVID-19 in Virginia

With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in the state on March 7, 2020, many jurisdictions declared local states of emergency throughout March, with Governor Northam issuing a stay at home order by the end of the month. The order required everyone to remain at their place of residence, with exceptions for traveling to work, to obtain food and for outdoor exercise.

Several months later, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry adopted binding safety regulations on COVID-19, the first such regulations in the United States. The regulations included mandates about “control measures and prohibits retaliation against workers for expressing concern about infection risk and provides for fines of up to US$130,000 for companies found in violation”.

As of late October 2020, Virginia is in Phase Three of their guidelines to ease public health restrictions. All Virginians are required to comply with the statewide face mask requirement in indoor public spaces, and are strongly encouraged to continue working from home, wash their hands, maintain six feet between themselves and others, and get testing right away if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Despite facing the same significant challenges as the rest of the country, such as a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), under-staffing, and COVID-19 test availability, poll data released by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association stated 3 in 4 residents said Virginia hospitals and health care providers have done a good job of keeping the public informed during COVID-19.

As winter approaches, however, COVID-19 cases are expected to increase at a higher rate across the United States. Due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, Virginia physicians should protect themselves now with comprehensive medical malpractice insurance.

Telemedicine in Virginia

Telemedicine in Virginia is on the rise. UVA Health reported providing more than 46,000 virtual visits using telehealth platforms in April and May of 2020. In June, The Federal Communications Commission awarded a small grant to UVA Health to expand their use of telehealth for patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding has expanded the healthcare system’s interactive home-monitoring program to include patients with COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization, patients with COVID-19 who have recently been discharged from the hospital, and patients with chronic illnesses. They also deployed telemedicine solutions and remote examination tools to patients in nursing facilities, assisted living centers, long-term care hospitals, and partner hospitals. In addition, UVA has developed a virtual urgent-care platform to enable patients with non-emergency medical needs to be seen online, without the need to visit the hospital.

Virginia has several protective regulations that are important to the success of telemedicine, including parity law that mandates equivalent coverage for telemedicine and in-person services from private payers, Medicaid and state employee health plans.

Telemedicine visits are expected to become the norm for minor health issues and routine care. Since doctors have the same liability with telemedicine visits as they do with face to face visits, it is recommended that doctors carry insurance that specifically covers telemedicine.

Malpractice Insurance Rates for Virginia Doctors

Medical malpractice insurance rates in Virginia are competitive among carriers – so working with an independent broker, like MEDPLI, allows you to easily shop for the best option. A physician’s specific rate will be based on factors like exact location, specialty and claims history.

State filed rates from 2016

Tort Reform in Virginia

The most notable tort reform is Virginia’s cap on medical malpractice damages. In addition, The Virginia Medical Malpractice Act from 2005:

  • Created review panels for accessing the merits of a prospective medical malpractice claim, consisting of two doctors, two lawyers and a judge that provide an opinion on whether a provider violated the medical standard of care and whether that violation was the legal cause of the patient’s injury
  • Currently requires the use of medical expert witness testimony to establish the standard of care and show how the defendant violated that standard

Virginia’s Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Virginia’s medical malpractice damage caps are different than most states’ because they apply to the total amount of compensation recoverable, including non-economic and economic damages. Punitive damages are always capped at $350,000, but the limit that may apply to a medical malpractice case depends on when the malpractice occurred.

Claims that were filed before August 1st, 1999 have their damages capped at $1 million. After August 1st, 1999, damages were capped at $1.5 million. Each year after 1999 will see a $50,000 increase in the limit on malpractice claims, when finally in 2031, the cap will be $3 million. Currently in 2020, the cap applies at $2.4 million.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

In most cases, the time limit for medical malpractice claims is two years from the date of injury, which may or may not be the same date as the act of malpractice. However, there are specific situations where this period can be extended:

  • For claims involving “negligent failure to diagnose a malignant tumor” or specific forms of cancer, the filing deadline is extended for a period of one year from the date on which a correct diagnosis is “communicated to the patient by a health care provider”
  • When a foreign object with no therapeutic effect is left in a patient, or where “fraud, concealment or intentional misrepresentation prevented discovery of the injury” within the two-year time period limit, the filing deadline is extended one year from the date the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered
  • No lawsuit can be filed if more than ten years have passed since the malpractice occurred, except for cases where the patient was under a legal disability at the time the underlying malpractice occurred and that disability continues beyond the 10-year timeframe.

Tail Insurance in Virginia

If you are a physician with a claims-made policy practicing in Virginia and you DON’T have Prior Acts insurance (also known as Nose Coverage), having a tail insurance policy will make sure you’re protected from malpractice claims if you change jobs. Tail insurance covers the gap between your retroactive date with your former employer, and the last day you are covered by that policy. The dates typically line up with your first day on the job and your last day seeing patients at that job. Before you start with your new employer, the new employer will often want to confirm you have tail coverage from your prior job. To get the best rates on tail insurance in Virginia, contact a broker before you notify your employer of your resignation.

When and why is tail insurance necessary?

When a doctor leaves an employer, their insurance coverage with that employer ends on the last day of employment. Since most malpractice insurance policies are underwritten on a claims-made basis, you will be exposed to a lawsuit if someone files a claim against you after you leave your employer, without tail coverage. Tail insurance covers you from your retroactive date up to the last day the policy is in effect – with the ability to report claims years after the last day. Read more about tail malpractice insurance.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Outcomes in Virginia for 2019

TOTAL PAYOUT

The total medical malpractice payout in Virginia for 2019 was $31,474,350.


Closing Remarks

Virginia hospitals continue to distinguish themselves from other healthcare systems, recently ranking in the Top 10 Nationally for Health Care Quality by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and ranking first nationwide in “Acute Care” measurements.

Overall, Virginia is a very hospitable place for medical professionals to live and work. Salaries can vary based on specialty and practice location, but compensation for providers is good. Damage caps, tort reform, and the competitive insurance rates in the state all provide a stable outlook for doctors. In addition, the physician workforce, especially the surgeon workforce, is small relative to the national average and is nearing retirement, creating an abundance of jobs. These factors make Virginia an attractive location to start a private practice as a surgeon or OB/GYN.

If you are a General Surgeon in Roanoke, an Anesthesiologist in Virginia Beach, or an Orthopedic Surgeon in Richmond and looking for medical malpractice insurance,contact to MEDPLI. We’ll help you find top-notch coverage from an A-rated carrier wherever you are in Virginia. MEDPLI helps private practice physicians get the malpractice coverage they need at the best available price.

MEDPLI offers tail insurance, group coverage, private practice malpractice coverage, and more. See our Products & Services page to find out how we can help you.

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